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  1. Analysis
April 1, 2020

Norway’s credit card use remains stubbornly low

By Evie Rusman

Payment cards reign supreme in Norway, with few individuals using cash on a daily basis, and most possessing a minimum of three payment cards. This is the result of a robust economy, an efficient domestic debit card scheme in BankAxept, and a high banked population (99.7%).

Ready access to formal financial services has resulted in a population that is highly comfortable with payment cards, both in store and online. At the core of the payment market is consumers’ embrace of debit cards and BankAxept.

Electronic payments have also gained ground due to substantial government investments in building long-term infrastructure for cashless transactions.

Contactless card numbers and use have seen healthy growth in the past few years, with the vast majority of contactless users seeing these cards as helpful. Affordable and widely available financial products, the growing presence of digital-only banks, consumer preference for e-payments, a competitive marketplace, and a transparent business environment will aid the move towards cashless.

BankAxept dominates

The frequency of debit card payments in Norway stood at 318.7 in 2019 – one of the highest in the world. The high use is mainly a result of growing consumer preference for cashless payments.

High fees for ATM withdrawals have also pushed debit card use for payments. Growing use at POS terminals has been supported by BankAxept’s zero interchange fee model, which enables low-cost merchant acceptance.

To drive debit card use, BankAxept offers contactless debit cards enabling card holders to make contactless payments of up to NOK400 ($46.22) without needing to enter a PIN.

Credit and charge cards 

Although penetration of credit and charge cards is high, use remains stubbornly low. These cards accounted for just 21.5% of the total card payment transaction value in 2019.

However, as the debit card market gradually heads towards saturation, credit and charge cards are proving increasingly lucrative for banks. Credit and charge cards registered strong growth in the period 2015-2019 in terms of card payment volume and value, supported by a growing e-commerce market and increased overseas spending.

As highlighted by the 2019 Banking and Payments Survey, credit and charge cards accounted for 35% of total e-commerce transactions by value in 2019.

E-commerce growth

E-commerce in Norway rose during the review period 2015–2019 from $11.7bn in 2015 to $21.1bn in 2019 at a CAGR of 15.9%. Norway registered the highest average spending per capita of $3,925 in 2019 among all Nordic countries. Growth was supported by high internet and smartphone penetration, as well as online events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with significant discounts to encourage consumers to make purchases.

The availability of alternative payment solutions including PayPal, Vipps, Masterpass, Klarna and Apple Pay will also support growth going forward.

BankAxept popularity

The number of prepaid cards in circulation recorded a CAGR of -34.2% during the four-year period to 2019.

According to Finance Norway, prepaid cards are not very successful in the country. This is mainly due to the popularity of BankAxept debit cards, which are offered free of charge. The high banked population and the fact that each individual owns an average of more than one BankAxept debit card has limited the scope for prepaid card growth.


The number of POS terminals grew from 152,757 in 2015 to 162,889 in 2019 at a CAGR of 1.6%. This growth was mainly supported by greater POS adoption among smaller merchants. Lower acceptance costs for domestic cards and reduced interchange fees on international schemes have also supported growth.

The growing payment card market has attracted new entrants to the Norwegian mobile POS space. SumUp offers its SumUp 3G card reader in European markets including Norway. The solution enables merchants to accept all types of payments, including contactless, chip and PIN, Google Pay and Apple Pay. The solution works via a built-in SIM card that connects to the 3G network, eliminating data costs and the need for a WiFi connection or smartphone.

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